Integrity Legal

9th January 2011

Those who keep up with the news in the United States of America may have seen recent news reports regarding the recent shooting of a United States Representative and Federal District Court Judge. To quote directly from the website Indianexpress.com:

Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and 18 others were shot Saturday morning when a gunman opened fire outside a supermarket where Giffords was meeting with constituents.

Six of the victims died, among them John M Roll, the chief judge for the United States District Court for Arizona, and a nine-year-old girl…

It seems as if the shootings were motivated by the suspected gunman’s opposition to the political and legal positions held by some of the victims with respect to United States Immigration policy. To quote Indianexpress.com further:

The shootings raised questions about potential political motives, with Pima County Sheriff Clarence W Dupnik blaming “the toxic political environment in Arizona”.

Giffords, who represents the Eighth District in Arizona, has been an outspoken critic of the state’s tough immigration law, which is focused on identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants, and she had come under criticism for her vote in favour of the health care law. Friends said she had received threats over the years.

Generally, immigration issues are considered somewhat mundane by those who are interested in American policy, but the American immigration debate has grown increasingly intense since the State of Arizona recently passed controversial legislation aimed at stemming the inflow of illegal and/or undocumented immigrants entering the State of Arizona by way of the international border between the United States of America and its southern neighbor Mexico. To quote directly from an article in the New York Times from April 2010:

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration into law on Friday. Its aim is to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants. The move unleashed immediate protests and reignited the divisive battle over immigration reform nationally. Even before she signed the bill at an afternoon news conference here, President Obama strongly criticized it.

It is interesting to note that American Presidents rarely ever even comment upon legislation passed at the State level as State legislation is often viewed as being within the exclusive bailiwick of State authorities. However, there are strong arguments that Arizona’s passage of the aforementioned legislation represents an infringement upon the Federal government’s right to set and maintain United States Immigration policy. The New York Times’ article went on to note further:

The Arizona law, he added, threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

The law, which proponents and critics alike said was the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations, would make the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and give the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally. Opponents have called it an open invitation for harassment and discrimination against Hispanics regardless of their citizenship status.

The Arizona law represents an interesting controversy from a legal perspective as fundamental Constitutional issues such as Separation of Powers and Federalism are directly impacted by the enactment and subsequent enforcement of this law. The tragic aspect of this situation is that the immigration issue is one which could, and arguably should, be solved through the legislative process and reasoned debate. The fact that American immigration policy may be at the source of the recent shootings is tragic due to the loss of life. Also, it is likely that this shooting will exacerbate an already heated debate on the issue of Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the enforcement of US Immigration law in general.

For related information on American immigration please see: I-601 waiver or Department of Homeland Security.


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